One doesn’t need to be a mom (or dad) writer to get that question. I’ve only been asked it a handful of times, always by non-writers, and I’m grateful. It’s a hard question to answer. For one thing, ideas are everywhere, and people don’t seem to accept the “ideas are the easy part” answer. But there it is. I’ve said before that the fact that I’ll die before I get to tell all the stories I want to tell pisses me off. It’s not hyperbole. The hard part is fleshing out that idea and making it so real someone will not only read it but believe it.
That’s not really an answer, is it?
(My husband wants me to say that ideas come from spouses, so I will. That’s sometimes true.)
Here’s what I’ll do. I’ll through out a few of my short stories and talk a little bit about where I got the idea.
CAKE AND CANDY–My first pro sale and published story. In it, the protagonist is a young widow (she’s in her early 20’s) and is understandably distraught. Her grandma gives her a pair of earrings that allow her to hear the dead, specifically her recently deceased husband. To be honest, I’m not exactly sure where I got this idea–I was given the theme of the anthology (magical clothing) and instantly thought about a pair of earring that acted as a conduit to the other side. The idea that the dead never truly leave us is a comforting one, and I liked exploring it in this story.
THE LAST BREAKFAST–A woman wakes up to discover that she’s become a zombie, which in this world is caused by a genetic mutation. She goes to a feeding ground where zombies eat each other so as not to destroy humanity. It’s flash fiction, and it’s creepy. This idea came to me in a dream, believe it or not, and it’s the one of the only times that’s happened to me. I dreamed I was in college and my roommate was a zombie and had to go to a feeding ground. I watched what was happening from outside the building. The dream had a visceral, hypnotic quality to it, and it stuck with me for several weeks until I wrote the story.
VANESSA MCAVOY’S STATEMENT–Another themed anthology, this one “predator and prey.” The editor wanted were-animal stories that weren’t were-wolves. I immediately thought about a school for were-children, mostly because of how fun it would be to write about were-eagles and were-ferrets. I structured it much like Stephen King’s “Delores Clairborne,” where the protagonist is giving a statement about a crime that’s happened. There’s lots of were-children acting like predators. I’m really happy with the way it turned out.